Japan weighs defence exports

Japan’s joint fighter jet project with the UK and Italy will take centre stage at a defence show near here this week, as the country bolsters its defence ties with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members and mulls loosening controls on defence exports. The Global Combat Air Programme, a next-generation stealth fighter announced in December, is the country’s first major military development plan with partners other than the United States since World War II. The defence ministers from the three countries will meet in Tokyo tomorrow for discussions on the plane, Japan’s Defence Ministry said.


Japan has been one of the biggest buyers of US aircraft for years and the fighter jet signals Tokyo is ready to increase outlays on its domestic arms makers as it pledges to increase defence spending by 60% in the next five years. “We will gain increased exposure to global markets,” Akira Sugimoto, who heads the project for Japan’s biggest defence contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), said in an interview.

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MHI, a descendant of the maker of the World War II Zero fighter, will be working with BAe Systems Plc and Leonardo SpA as main contractors, while a host of other firms will also be involved. “We think we can develop through exchanges with foreign companies that have a wealth of that type of experience,” Sugimoto said. He added MHI cannot comment on the potential for exports of the new plane, scheduled to be ready in 2035, given current regulations. Japan’s decades-old ban on foreign transfers of defence equipment, which made it hard for firms in the industry to turn a profit or collaborate with allies, was relaxed in 2014 under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Yet restrictions remain tight, and the government is considering further opening up.

Source: Bloomberg through The Star

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